Thursday, February 9, 2017

Documentary Shorts - 1 nomination each

Extremis is a moving and powerful short that allows us to see what life is like for the doctors, patients, and families considering the impossible choice between living on machines and clinging to hopes of recovery or removing those machines and letting nature take its course. We see behind the scenes of the doctors who also want to have hope, also want to try everything to keep patients alive, but who also have the awesome responsibility of advising patients (when they are coherent enough) and families about the realities that their futures hold.  These doctors have the most difficult conversations with the utmost kindness, care, and candor.  I cried throughout the film.  (Followers of this blog may chuckle knowing that I'm an easy mark, but what am I, made of stone?)

4.1 Miles
4.1 miles follows the experience of a Greek Coast Guard captain whose days have become filled with rescuing Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani refugees from their tiny rafts as Turkish smugglers bring them 4.1 miles to escape their dangerous lives.  Around him, the community debates whether immigrants should be welcome, while he focuses on the work of saving lives and pulling adults and small children from the treacherous water.  On more than one occasion, he must bring the boat to places that are too windy or too choppy for it, and yet he and his crew persist, valuing each human life equally.

Joe's Violin
Joe is a survivor of the Holocaust.  One day, NPR broadcasts their drive for unused instruments promising that every instrument that is turned in will go to schools in the poorest neighborhood in New York, ensuring that children who would not normally have access to music education will get it.  Joe has a violin that he purchased after the war during his time in a Displaced Persons' camp.  Brianna Perez attends the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls, in one of the worst school districts in the country.  This is a charter school with a population of kids who come from difficult backgrounds - Brianna shows a talent and passion for the violin, and she aspires to attend the High School for the Performing Arts.  She becomes the recipient of Joe's violin.  They meet (and the kids in the school meet their very first Holocaust survivor), and magic ensues.  This one is a real tear jerker.

Watani: My Homeland
Watani follows a Syrian family whose father is part of the Syrian resistance army.  They live in an almost demolished town and bullets fly by their building on a regular basis.  When the father is captured and (assumed) murdered by ISIS, the family must finally flee Syria to the safe haven of Goslar, Germany.  But the four children struggle to keep their allegiance to Syria and their identities as Syrians, with each of them and their mother adjusting differently to Germany.  They begin to learn the language, make friends, and work toward a day when they will be able to support themselves instead of needing to rely on the state.  Watching the children run to safety when they hear a helicopter or a plane and waiting for the bombs to drop is gut wrenching when you realize how much they have already faced and survived in their short histories, and their post traumatic stress is evident. Still, they know that for today, they are safe and deeply grateful to the German government who rescued them.

The White Helmets
The White Helmets captures the truly remarkable story of average Syrians who run into exploded buildings on a daily basis to see if they can rescue any survivors.  They take their own lives into their hands, and they speak of their dreams of peace, of valuing every human life even those who want them dead, and leaving their families behind in danger in order to serve their fellow human beings. We see stories of them rescuing a one month old baby trapped under rubble, of their own despair and worry with each attack wondering if their family members have survived, and their bravery to enter any situation if there is hope of helping.  Just over 120 white helmets had died since 2013 at the time this documentary short was produced, and remarkably over 60,000 people had been saved by these deeply courageous men.

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